Spain Routs Greece 70-47 to Claim the FIBA World ChampionshipSpain claimed their first FIBA World Championship with a convincing 70-47 win over Greece. Playing without star center Pau Gasol, who was sidelined by a broken foot that he suffered in Spain's semifinals win over Argentina, the Spanish team took control late in the first quarter and was never seriously threatened the rest of the way. Jorge Garbajosa and Juan Navarro led Spain with 20 points each, while Mihalis Kakiouzis topped Greece with 17. Vasileios Spanoulis, who led Greece with 22 points against Team USA, finished with four points and missed all six of his three pointers.
Garbajosa shot 6-11 from three point range and Navarro shot 4-9 from long distance. The Spanish team shot 12-30 overall on three pointers, compared to Greece's 5-21 and the 21 points from those extra seven three pointers constitutes most of Spain's margin of victory. Felipe Reyes, who recently returned to action after being injured, started at center in place of Gasol and contributed 10 points, all scored in the first half, more than doubling his previous single game high in the tournament.
The teams seemed evenly matched in the first five minutes and Greece led 9-8 at the 4:47 mark of the first quarter. Spain then went on an 8-0 run en route to an 18-12 lead by the end of the quarter. A Navarro jump shot off of a well executed pick and roll play and a Garbajosa three pointer put Spain up 23-12 early in the second quarter and the rout was on. Greece did not look at all like the team that shredded Team USA's defense in the semifinals--and, as ESPN2's Fran Fraschilla explained, there is a good reason for that: "This is what happens when teams are familiar with each other," he noted after one of Spain's nine steals. "Navarro was in the exact spot Papaloukas was throwing the ball to."
Sofoklis Schortsanitis, who scored 14 points on 6-7 shooting against Team USA, had two points, three fouls and four turnovers in seven minutes of play versus Spain. Unlike Team USA, Spain knows that Schortsanitis does not pass well out of double teams, so they trapped him every chance they got. They also know his moves and were able to lure him into poor decisions and offensive fouls. Team USA was originally scheduled to fly out of Japan on Monday but changed their plans and departed after the bronze medal game. I think that it would have been nice--and smart--if Team USA's players and coaching staff had stuck around until the end of the tournament, watched the gold medal game and familiarized themselves with the players and teams that they hope to beat in the Olympics in two years. Team USA does not lack skill or will; it lacks knowledge and understanding of FIBA basketball in general and the international players in particular, especially the ones who are not in the NBA.
Greece did not score until the 6:42 mark of the second quarter and by then they trailed 28-13. Spain led 43-23 at halftime, shooting 17-31 from the field while holding Greece to 8-26 field goal shooting. The teams played to an 11-11 standstill in the third quarter but Spain removed what little doubt remained about the outcome with a 15-9 run to begin the fourth quarter.
Team USA is capable of beating these teams but first must respect them enough to actually learn about how their players play. That process should start at the top of USA Basketball and then trickle down to the coaching staff and players. Team USA paid good lip service to the idea of respecting the opposing teams and won and lost with class but by the time the Tournament of the Americas rolls around next year there will be no excuse for not being thoroughly familiar with the other teams in the field.
posted by David Friedman @ 2:42 PM